The T20 World Cup will have a new winner. Irrespective of who wins, New Zealand or Australia, there will be a new champion in Dubai, UAE. For, the two have never been crowned.
Australia’s dominance of cricket included five World Cup (50 overs) wins, but not once did they win the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup. That’s a blot Aaron Finch’s side would like to erase. But New Zealand are in no mood to relent.
At the root of the final is a Trans-Tasman rivalry, where New Zealand have often come out at the wrong end of the contests. Kane Williamson and his team will want to avoid the capitulations of the past. The Kiwi cricket is at a good place now; they lost the 2019 World Cup in bizarre circumstances but bounced back to win the World Test Championship.
Even that didn’t provide them with a place among the pre-tournament favourites. So New Zealand went ahead and knocked out two of the heavily fancied teams: India and England. Yet, not many are willing to put their money on the Kiwis.
Why? For a long time, New Zealand have had to live with the label of chokers. The nearly men of cricket. The bridesmaids. But the World Test Championship should have changed that, especially since they showed the skill and resolve to take down favourites India in the final.
New Zealand are not a side filled with stars. None of the players evokes awe. There’s no Martin Crowe or a Richard Hadlee. The unflappable captain Kane Williamson is the best-known face, and one of the best batsmen in the world. But the Kiwis have shown that the stars don’t matter; they pull together as a team, and it has worked out very well. Which is why they are in the final.
The Sodhi-Santner chokehold
Daryl Mitchell and Jimmy Neesham have provided the batting thrust when required, and Williamson, although not at his best, has been a stabilising presence in the middle-order. But they will miss Devon Conway, who sits out with a freak injury. So Tim Seifert gets an opportunity. The amazing stroke-player Martin Guptill’s lack of consistency is a worry.
Seamers Trent Boult and Tim Southee have been effective, but it has been leg-spinner Ish Sodhi who’s been providing the breakthroughs. Left-arm spinner Michael Santner has been steady and will have more workload against the Australians.
It’s easy to pick Australia as winners. More so, since they have won the 50-over World Cup five times. So they know a thing or two about winning. And the never-say-die attitude was in evidence against Pakistan as they repeatedly came back from losing scenarios. That’s the hallmark of a champion side.
Adam Zampa's spin threat
At the start of the tournament, not many tipped Australia to make the final. Even captain Finch admitted that they didn’t have an ideal preparation due to lockdowns stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. But as the tournament progressed, the Australians improved.
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That’s most apparent in David Warner, who’s run into form, while Finch and Mitchell Marsh have been among the runs. Then there are the two explosive allrounders Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis. Matthew Wade now has claimed a finisher’s mantle after the hat-trick of sixes against Shaheen Shah Afridi that put Australia in the final.
Bowling is suspect, as Pakistan showed in the semifinal, where Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc went for runs. But leg-spinner Adam Zampa has been a standout performer throughout the tournament. So what are they lacking? Maybe, an additional spinner to supplement Zampa and Maxwell. The Ashton Agar experiment didn't work well against England, and the fresh pitch at the Dubai International Stadium may dissuade any change of plans. So the Aussies are likely to field an unchanged side.
Who will win? It’s tricky to make a call, but Australia have the edge. That comes from their past wins and their history against New Zealand. History has a habit of repeating itself!